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Manatee fair crowd waves flags during historic 1st Fair Veterans parade

Bradenton Herald - 1/17/2018

Jan. 17--PALMETTO -- Roughly 200 veterans and their families took a slow but steady stroll around the Manatee County Fairgrounds at 6 p.m. Tuesday during the first Manatee County Fair Veterans' Parade.

Many in the fair crowd, which swelled when word was spread about the parade, waved American flags. Some came with signs thanking the vets on a night when admission was free.

Veterans like John Draper of the U.S. Army, 85, who lives in Cypress Springs Gracious Retirement Living in Lakewood Ranch, applauded fair officials for coming up with the idea of a parade for veterans.

"I enjoyed the fact that the folks felt they should come out and greet us for our service," said Draper, who served in the Korean War. "I think that's wonderful. It's something that you can carry with you all your life."

"I will always remember this big crowd that came out to welcome us," said U.S. Army veteran Don Kopp, 89, who, like Draper, lives in Cypress Springs.

"This was very nice today," said Charles Simmons, 91, one of a handful of World War II veterans at the parade.

Simmons, who was in the U.S. Army, walked with fellow World War II veteran Jim Martin, 92, who served in the U.S. Navy.

Simmons and Martin are also from Cypress Springs, which prides itself on its war veterans.

When asked what he remembers most about World War II, Simmons laughed and said, "Wanting to come home."

For Martin, the most emotional moment of the evening came when Manatee County Commissioner Priscilla Whisenant Trace, who joined Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant and others in making short speeches to the veterans before a coffee and cookie party at a hall on the fairgrounds, asked any World War II veterans in the crowd to stand up.

Simmons, Martin and one other person stood up.

"That really got to me," Martin said.

"For many years we have honored veterans in Manatee County by creating proclamations in their honor, holding solemn events and having picnics to celebrate their accomplishments," Whisenant Trace said "But this is the first time in 102 years that we have had a parade for them at the county fair. I think this event is overdue."

In her speech, Mayor Bryant made the connections between the freedoms we enjoy in America and the sacrifices the vets made for those freedoms.

Perhaps it is not a stretch to say that something as simple as a goat show at the fair may not have been possible without such sacrifices.

But, on Wednesday night, a shy young 14-year-old freshman from Palmetto High School named Peyton Fitzpatrick was able to come into his own as Overall Grand Champion of the 2018 Goat Show.

"Peyton is very reserved and a little shy, but having accomplished what he did tonight will help him blossom," said Peyton's mother, Angela Fitzpatrick.

"Peyton maintained control of his goat and had a good disposition," parent volunteer Lynn Lowrimore said of Peyton, who worked with a 2-year-old goat named O'Susanna owned by Judy Anderson.

There were 29 entrants in the goat show this year, way down from the 70s and 80s of the past few years, Lowrimore said.

"It runs in cycles," she said.

Richard Dymond: 941-745-7072, @RichardDymond

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(c)2018 The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.)

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